Employers requiring coronavirus vaccinations must consider human rights, privacy – Benefits Canada

Shaun Parker

Jan 11, 2021

Employers must carefully consider the privacy and human rights implications of requiring vaccinations for their teams before potentially doing so, Osler associate Shaun Parker tells Benefits Canada. In his article, author Blake Wolfe explores the potential implications of COVID-19 vaccines on the workplace, as vaccines become more available in Canada. Shaun, an associate in Osler’s Employment and Labour Group, says that employers should proceed with caution.

“In a mandatory-vaccination program, if an employee will suffer adverse effects due to a protected ground, the employer may have an issue,” Shaun tells Benefits Canada. “If someone for religious or medical reasons can’t take a vaccination, human rights is squarely engaged. Human rights doesn’t expressly prevent mandatory vaccinations but it does open a Pandora’s box. The main privacy implications are also from a human rights perspective, such as collection of sensitive personal information as a result of the vaccination.”

Shaun says that mandatory-vaccination programs will be “an easier sell” in workplaces such as health care and education, where the public and employees are at more risk.

He adds that if an employer wants, it can legally hold vaccination fairs when the vaccines become available for direct procurement.

“Whether the employer wants to do it or not is more of a business or moral decision,” Shaun says. “As part of the vaccination program, you’d have an employee- and public-relations strategy where you extol the benefits of the vaccine and why it’s good for workers to get it. But I’d be cautious to require it, especially in the early days, as the vaccine is rolled out. The question is ‘do you want your workplace to be the test case?’”

Shaun also offers his insights on the subject of how employers can mitigate the issue of employees pushing back against getting the vaccine, and other topics.

For more information, read author Blake Wolfe's article, "Employers requiring coronavirus vaccinations must consider human rights, privacy," in Benefits Canada.